KATHMANDU, Nepal — Shelter, fuel, food, medicine, power, news, workers — Nepal’s earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families’ needs. In much of the countryside, it was worse, though how much worse was only beginning to become apparent.
The official overall death toll soared past 4,000, even without a full accounting from vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster.
Udav Prashad Timalsina, the top official for the Gorkha district, where Saturday’s magnitude-8.1 quake was centered, said he was in desperate need of help. Saturday’s earthquake spread horror from Kathmandu to small villages and to the slopes of Mount Everest, triggering an avalanche that buried part of the base camp packed with foreign climbers preparing to make their summit attempts.
“There are people who are not getting food and shelter. I’ve had reports of villages where 70 percent of the houses have been destroyed,” he said.
Aid group World Vision said its staff members were able to reach Gorkha, but gathering information from the villages remained a challenge. Even when roads are clear, the group said, some remote areas can be three days’ walk from Gorkha’s main disaster center.
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Some roads and trails have been blocked by landslides, the group said in an email to The Associated Press. “In those villages that have been reached, the immediate needs are great including the need for search and rescue, food items, blankets and tarps, and medical treatment.”
Timalsina said 223 people had been confirmed dead in Gorkha district but he presumed “the number would go up because there are thousands who are injured.” He said his district had not received enough help from the central government, but Jagdish Pokhrel, the clearly exhausted army spokesman, said nearly the entire 100,000-soldier army was involved in rescue operations.
“We have 90 percent of the army out there working on search and rescue,” he said. “We are focusing our efforts on that, on saving lives.”
Relief worker Brad Kerner of Save the Children said many people are sleeping outside and the longer they live in camps, clean water practices will fall short.
“We are making sure there is shelter, food and water available. We’re handing out baby kits with blankets, soap, and other necessities for newborns, who are the most vulnerable in such situations,” Kerner said.
Help is pouring into Nepal from across the world, as countries big and small sent in medical and rescue teams to provide disaster relief.
Maj. Gen. Binod Basnyat said the teams were in different places in Kathmandu and surrounding areas. India has sent the biggest team with six helicopters and seven trucks. Seven Indian search and rescue teams and another seven medical teams were at work Monday in the worst-hit areas. They had rescued 10 people and recovered 40 bodies from the rubble of fallen buildings in different parts of Kathmandu.
China has also sent a medical team and a team of experts to move through structures destroyed in the quake and help with search and rescue operations. Chinese doctors have set up a field hospital at the mountain resort town of Dhulikhel, 30 kilometers (18 miles) east of Kathmandu.
Medical and rescue teams from Bhutan, Russia, Japan, France, Switzerland and Singapore are also expected to arrive in Kathmandu over the next couple of days, the army said.
MORE AID NEEDED
While aid is coming from more than a dozen countries and many charities, Lila Mani Poudyal, the government’s chief secretary and the rescue coordinator, said Nepal needed more.
He said the recovery was also being slowed because many workers — water tanker drivers, electricity company employees and laborers needed to clear debris — “are all gone to their families and staying with them, refusing to work.”
“We are appealing for tents, dry goods, blankets, mattresses, and 80 different medicines that the health department is seeking that we desperately need now,” Poudyal told reporters. “We don’t have the helicopters that we need or the expertise to rescue the people trapped.”
As people are pulled from the wreckage, he noted, even more help is needed.
Using the hashtags, #PrayForNepal #StayStrongNepal and #BeWithNepal, the social media world stood together with the Nepalese people.
“Now we especially need orthopedic (doctors), nerve specialists, anaesthetists, surgeons and paramedics,” he said. “We are appealing to foreign governments to send these specialized and smart teams.”
About 7,180 people were injured in the quake, police said. Poudyal estimated that tens of thousands of people had been left homeless. “We have been under severe stress and pressure, and have not been able to reach the people who need help on time,” he said.
The arrival of relief flights has caused major backups at Kathmandu’s small airport.
Four Indian air force aircraft carrying aid supplies and rescue personnel were forced to return to New Delhi on Monday because of airport congestion, Indian defense ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said. India planned to resend the planes later Monday night when the situation was expected to have eased.
Nepal police said on their Facebook page that the country’s death toll had risen to 3,904 people. That does not include the 18 people killed in the avalanche, which were counted by the mountaineering association. Another 61 people were killed in neighboring India, and China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported 25 people dead in Tibet.
Well over 1,000 of the victims were in Kathmandu, the capital, where an eerie calm prevailed Monday.
ONE MILLION CHILDREN ‘SEVERELY AFFECTED’
Nearly a million children have been “severely affected” the earthquake, a spokesman for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.
“What we know that at this point is there are nearly a million children who are severely affected. Our biggest concern for them right now is going to be access to clean water and sanitation, we know that water and food is running out,” UNICEF’s Christopher Tidey said by telephone.
Tens of thousands of families slept outdoors for a second night, fearful of aftershocks that have not ceased. Camped in parks, open squares and a golf course, they cuddled children or pets against chilly Himalayan nighttime temperatures.
They woke to the sound of dogs yelping and jackhammers. As the dawn light crawled across toppled building sites, volunteers and rescue workers carefully shifted broken concrete slabs and crumbled bricks mixed together with humble household items: pots and pans; a purple notebook decorated with butterflies; a framed poster of a bodybuilder; so many shoes.
“It’s overwhelming. It’s too much to think about,” said 55-year-old Bijay Nakarmi, mourning his parents, whose bodies recovered from the rubble of what once was a three-story building.
He could tell how they died from their injuries. His mother was electrocuted by a live wire on the roof top. His father was cut down by falling beams on the staircase.
He had last seen them a few days earlier — on Nepal’s Mothers’ Day — for a cheerful family meal.
“I have their bodies by the river. They are resting until relatives can come to the funeral,” Nakarmi said as workers continued searching for another five people buried underneath the wreckage.
Kathmandu district chief administrator Ek Narayan Aryal said tents and water were being handed out Monday at 10 locations in Kathmandu, but that aftershocks were leaving everyone jittery.
“There have been nearly 100 earthquakes and aftershocks, which is making rescue work difficult. Even the rescuers are scared and running because of them,” he said.
“We don’t feel safe at all. There have been so many aftershocks. It doesn’t stop,” said Rajendra Dhungana, 34, who spent Sunday with his niece’s family for her cremation at the Pashuputi Nath Temple.
Acrid, white smoke rose above the Hindu temple, Nepal’s most revered. “I’ve watched hundreds of bodies burn,” Dhungana said.
The capital city is largely a collection of small, poorly constructed brick apartment buildings. The earthquake destroyed swaths of the oldest neighborhoods, but many were surprised by how few modern structures collapsed in the quake.
On Monday morning, some pharmacies and shops for basic provisions opened while bakeries began offering fresh bread. Huge lines of people desperate to secure fuel lined up outside gasoline pumps, though prices were the same as they were before the earthquake struck.
With power lines down, spotty phone connections and almost no Internet connectivity, residents were particularly anxious to buy morning newspapers.
Pierre-Anne Dube, a 31-year-old from Canada, has been sleeping on the sidewalk outside a hotel. She said she’s gone from the best experience of her life, a trek to Everest base camp, to the worst, enduring the earthquake and its aftermath.
“We can’t reach the embassy. We want to leave. We are scared. There is no food. We haven’t eaten a meal since the earthquake and we don’t have any news about what’s going on,” she said.
The earthquake was the worst to hit the South Asian nation in more than 80 years. It and was strong enough to be felt all across parts of India, Bangladesh, China’s region of Tibet and Pakistan. Nepal’s worst recorded earthquake in 1934 measured 8.0 and all but destroyed the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan.
The quake has put a huge strain on the resources of this impoverished country best known for Everest, the highest mountain in the world. The economy of Nepal, a nation of 27.8 million people, relies heavily on tourism, principally trekking and Himalayan mountain climbing.
Story by the Associated Press and Reuters
Chinese teams rescue two earthquake survivors in Nepal
A 62-person Chinese rescue team has been at work in Nepal. They saved one person within hours of arrival. And they found another survivor on Monday. 170 members of the Chinese military rescue and medical teams left Monday for Kathmandu. CCTV’s Yang Zhao filed this report.
Chinese teams rescue two earthquake survivors in NepalA 62-person Chinese rescue team has been at work in Nepal. They saved one person within hours of arrival. And they found another survivor on Monday. 170 members of the Chinese military rescue and medical teams left Monday for Kathmandu. CCTV's Yang Zhao filed this report.
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Crews in Kathmandu continue search for bodies
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Crews in Kathmandu continue search for bodiesn some parts of Kathmandu, the search and rescue has been halted, so they can start to clear the rubble. A mechanical digger claws through the wreckage of a home Twelve people were pulled dead from this block, with no survivors. But this rescue team from India weren't deterred. They are part of the international effort that has come to reinforce Nepal's emergency services. CCTV's Tony Cheng filed this report from Kathmandu Nepal.
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Rescuers clear roads and distribute relief supplies in TibetThe 8-point-1 magnitude earthquake and numerous aftershocks also jolted Tibet. China has scaled up relief efforts there. Rescue workers have been clearing sections of the highway connecting Nyalam County and Zham on the border with Nepal, following more landslides on Monday.
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